We’ve received many questions from our hair replacement specialists and hair wearers about safety in the pandemic. There are a lot of questions out there about sterilization, what viruses live on, and how long viruses tend to live on materials. A lot of recent research has been done as well as interviews with specialists in related fields. (Spoiler alert: We don’t suggest the umbrella)
Hair salons and hair replacement centers who are operating for essential procedures are well-versed in sterilization methods as they are already vital to our industry, but it’s always good to have a refresher. One question we hear is “how can I disinfect a wig or top piece”. To disinfect polyurethane (PU) such as tape tabs and poly perimeters you can use a 50-70% alcohol solution such as diluted 99% alcohol from our friends at Walker tape. To disinfect silicone you can do a standard cleaning with a washcloth and shampoo (We made a video on this). For disinfecting hair, the best method is simply to wash the wig or top piece. Water dilution will get rid of any virus particles, just as it does when washing clothing.
This brings us to another topic: do I need to worry about my hair and clothes? The short answer is… not as much as you might think. The New York Times interviewed aerosol scientist Dr. Linsey Marr who says, while viral droplets can remain suspended in the air for about half an hour “a droplet that is small enough to float in air for a while also is unlikely to deposit on clothing because of aerodynamics. The droplets are small enough that they’ll move in the air around your body and clothing.” Marr continued, “Humans don’t usually move fast enough for this to happen. As we move, we push air out of the way, and most of the droplets and particles get pushed out of the way, too.” So when does a person need to be concerned? Dr. Marr states, “Someone would have to spray large droplets through talking — a spit talker — coughing or sneezing for them to land on our clothes. The droplets have to be large enough that they don’t follow the streamlines.”
In another question posed to the New York Times, readers were concerned about if virus particles may infect them from their hair or beards. Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis Children’s Hospital replied that it was extremely unlikely. “You have to think through the process of what would have to happen for someone to become infected,” said Dr. Janowski. “You have someone who sneezes, and they have to have X amount of virus in the sneeze. Then there has to be so many drops that land on you. Then you have to touch that part of your hair or clothing that has those droplets, which already have a significant reduction in viral particles,” Dr. Janowski explains. “Then you have to touch that, and then touch whatever part of your face, to come into contact with it. When you go through the string of events that must occur, such an extended number of things have to happen just right. That makes it a very low risk.”
When it comes to clothing at the salon, including salon garments, a simple wash is enough to get rid of virus particles. COVID-19 is surrounded by a fatty membrane that is vulnerable to soap. Dr Marr told the New York Times, “We do know that viruses can deposit on clothing (from droplets) and then be shaken loose into the air with movement, but you would need a lot of viruses for this to be a concern, far more than a typical person would encounter while going for a walk outdoors or going to a grocery store,”. For plastic capes that don’t go in the wash, a spray of alcohol solution or barbicide should disinfect them if used properly. The obvious exception to these concerns is for at home care of a sick person. In those cases always follow the CDC guidelines.
Cleaning the salon or hair replacement center environment is vital, and cleaning measures should be in place. How long do viral particles live on materials? The peer-reviewed study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March found that the virus can survive, under ideal conditions, up to three days on hard metal surfaces and plastic and up to 24 hours on cardboard. Ideal conditions are not the norm, but it is still good to behave as though you are cleaning for ideal conditions. Keeping this in mind to regularly sterilize salon spaces will be essential. Most hair salons and hair replacement centers have 99% alcohol solution on hand for the removal of adhesives which can be used to sterilize if traditional bleach wipes or sprays are not available. Barbicide is also a disinfectant solution for hard surfaces, though you will need to check that your barbicide solution is stain-free. Since long-term bonding is an essential service, keeping on top of good practices will help hair salons and hair replacement studios during the shutdown, and everyone can benefit from informed cleaning policies when states reopen salons for business.